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Cynic - Focus CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.18 | 535 ratings

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The Pessimist
Prog Reviewer
5 stars A terrific album to say the least. On top of being great though, it is also a very important album as it was one of the first to blend jazz with death metal (alongside Atheist's trilogy of albums), and ultimately was a huge part of the progressive metal movement in general. The atmosphere is all round very dark, but because of the jazzier, airier sections it is a lighter album than most death metal inputs. I find the instrumentation on Focus also very similar to that of Human, which was obviously a massive influence on Focus if you listen closely. It could also be that both the albums have Paul Masdival and Sean Reinert featured, but you can also hear that Masdival has picked up a few compositional tricks from the great Schuldiner, most evidently in the gut-punching Uroboric Forms.

But despite being heavily influenced by Human, Focus definitely stands alone in the metal timeline. Human broke down barriers between genres, and Focus carried on where it's predecessor left off, and in some ways broke down even more. In my opinion, Focus also did a lot for the metal world in a sense that it opened up death metal to a wider range of audiences. From my experiences, this cult classic is appreciated by classical fans, jazz fans and metal fans alike, whereas normally a classicalhead or a jazzhead wouldn't even consider listening to an album of this genre. As mentioned in an above interview, this is a death metal album for people who don't like death metal.

As for the songs, they are all strong with no real weak points. I do have my favourites, but I can happily listen to the album in its entirety and get a strong buzz from it. Each one has something different and unique to offer the listener, whether it be in the realms of jazz or metal. I will go through each of my very favourite tracks.

Veil Of Maya -

The opener is one of the best of all 90s metal, and that is saying something as metal bands tend to open their albums with a very powerful song. Veil Of Maya is different though, because it is one of the heaviest songs and one of the weirdest songs Cynic have ever recorded. My favourite section has to be the female vocal sections, as they are just plain weird but beautiful at the same time. The guitar solo here, as with all of them off this disk, provides the jazz influence most obviously. Great track though, recommended for any prog lover, and I'm also to believe that the mp3 is sampled here on PA, so there is absolutely no excuse not to have a listen.

Celestial Voyage -

Simply stunning, this track currently has... 91 plays on my itunes, and i am stiull finding something new within every time. Everything is just stunning all the way through, and Masdival's robotic vocals sound perfect on here, just perfect. It is also highly technical in places, like the guitar solo in 15/8 for example. Nothing more I can say about this track, other than like the one before, strong jazz influences are popping their heads through all over the shot and that it's pretty damn heavy. Don't be put off though, this is a phenomenal piece of art.

Uroboric Forms -

The heaviest on the album, this one is also very strange to unprepared ears. Fantastic nonetheless. The drumming on this is also top notch, but who would expect any less from one of the underated drumming greats of all time, Sean Reinert? A very tight composition with catchy melody here and there, brilliant syncopation and killer riffs. As mentioned above, this bares a few similarities with any song off the album Human by Death.

How Could I -

I don't really like to do this with a masterpiece album, but if I were to pick a favourite, this would undoubtedly be it. Everything is here: loud sections, quiet sections, great lyrics, melody, brutality, outstanding performances from all musicians, technicallity, syncopation... even keyboards. If there ever was an archetypal Cynic song, then this would be it. Utterly superb.

Overall, I think this album deserves a lot of patience, and takes a lot of time to appreciate fully (it took me the best part of 6 months). But once you do hit the stage of liking it, you will probably love it. There is so much to offer here (more than most of the albums on this site for that matter), from drum solos to irregular time patterns to jazz guitarwork and death growls, all in the space of half an hour. For this reason and the many reasons mentioned within the songs, this album is a masterpiece. There is only one album from the 90s that competes with this one, and that is Death's Symbolic, which is possibly the greatest metal album of all time in my opinion. 5 stars, without an inch of a doubt.

The Pessimist | 5/5 |


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